Obesity poses as big a threat to our nation as terrorism, Government adviser warns

Posted on 6:58 PM by Sameer Shah

Obesity poses as grave a threat to Britain and the NHS as terrorism, a Government adviser has warned.

Public health expert Professor David Hunter criticised ministers for failing to take 'bold action' to tackle the growing crisis.

Experts have already warned that if trends continue, half the population will be obese within 25 years, causing life expectancy to fall for the first time in two centuries.

Professor Hunter, of Durham University, said that since the 1970s governments have done little more than 'tinkered round the edges' of the emerging health crisis.

'They have been talking about it for four decades but that never seems to be enough,' he said.

'The Government was quick to move for things like ID cards or 42-day detention without trial - now it needs to show similar leadership in public health.

'The threat to our future health is just as significant as the current security threat.'

Although Government initiatives were having some impact, he added, these were on a 'piddling' scale.

'Lots of the initiatives are under a voluntary agreement - but it has just come to the point where things like these are simply not working,' Professor Hunter said.

Around 25 per cent of people in England are classified as obese - so overweight it threatens their health - compared to 8 per cent in 1980.

On current trends, half of the population will be clinically obese by 2032, and those with Type II diabetes - which is triggered almost exclusively by being overweight - will rise tenfold to 19million.

Overall, obesity is thought to knock nine years off lifespan. Various cancers, including breast, colon, kidney and stomach cancer, are known to be linked to weight.

The cost to the NHS of treating obesity - already £1billion a year - will also soar.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: 'We are tackling obesity through awareness campaigns and action in schools.'

Every primary school pupil in one of the country's most deprived cities could be offered free school meals regardless of need to tackle childhood obesity.

Officials and health chiefs in Liverpool want to become the first authority in Britain to ban packed lunches and provide compulsory healthy meals to 26,000 youngsters, aged between four and 11.

But critics said the scheme, which is likely to cost £8.3million a year, is another example of the 'nanny state' and would be a waste of public money.

Similar proposals were rejected by the Scottish Parliament in 2002 but the plans have been backed by Children's Secretary Ed Balls.

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